Mentor Profile: Ashley Holbrook

Ashley Holbrook described her first experience with Coding & Cocktails with great enthusiasm and passion.

Ashley Holbrook Coding & Cocktails Mentor“I love it. I got addicted to it the first time I went,” Holbrook said of her first Kansas City Women in Technology session that she attended in June 2016. “I was like, ‘I’m never leaving!’”

Her dedication grew so much that as of January, Holbrook is now a mentor with Coding & Cocktails. By day, she is a PrePress Coordinator at Tabco Inc. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Arts Technology Management at the University of Central Missouri, where Holbrook said she asked her instructors to create a special class for her that would allow her to combine her graphic design- and website creation-related passions simultaneously.

Holbrook also has a side business, creating websites and doing design work. She originally started with Coding & Cocktails to help strengthen her already-existing HTML knowledge base, but it has since turned into something larger for her long-term career goals.

Outside of Coding & Cocktails, Holbrook’s personal hobbies include knitting and yoga. She also is currently continuing her coding-related education through LaunchCode.

How did your interest in coding begin?

A long time ago – I grew up on computers. My dad was really adamant about having computers. I used to boot up DOS and play Doom, back in the day. I was fascinated by the computer, and I always wanted to be on the computer. I used to take the wallpapers from Windows, and recreate them in Paint, pixel by pixel. The coding interest started, then, with MySpace. I figured out HTML, and I had a totally decked out MySpace page. It was just sort of always in my mind, and I didn’t really pick it up again until college.

How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
The problem-solving, definitely. When you are coding and creating things, you run into so many problems. Having that grit to keep going has transferred over into the everyday part of my life. It’s transferred at work, too – I run a digital press, and that thing has so many issues. I used to get so frustrated, and now I think more about how I can figure it out. That logical part has really stayed with me.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
When you work on something and you keep getting errors, and then it works, it’s such an instant gratification. I’m learning Python through LaunchCode, and that’s been a lot of fun.

What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
I think for me, I’m a really visual learner. Writing code is just looking at words. It’s then a matter of looking at how the words work together, and sometimes, that’s difficult for me to see. That’s been really challenging. I’ve printed out the code and have drawn diagrams with it and lines of how they relate to one another, and that has really helped me.

What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
To my younger self, when I made them make a class for me in college to make a website, when you feel passionate about something, just go with it. It can be scary, but eventually, when you get older, you are going to go back to that passion and what drives you. I’d just say, “Follow your passion, Little Ashley. You will get there anyway.” For those who are getting into coding, I would say that you should jump in, get involved, and meet people. There are so many resources out there; look for those resources. I feel like my whole life changed when I got involved with Coding & Cocktails.

If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
Computers can be pretty dumb. As a human, you really have to think about the program that you write. Computers just take the program that you wrote and make it work really fast. That was a big lightbulb moment for me.

How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in every aspect of our lives. I think that it does make our lives easier, for sure; I only just see that getting more and more. From what I see right now, there are a lot of tech-focused jobs right now, and there is going to be such a huge demand for all of this. Education is extremely important for that. I think all of the programs, such as Coding & Cupcakes, are perfect for that.

-Adrianne DeWeese

Adrianne DeWeese is a Continuing Education Specialist with the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. A member of the KCWiT Marketing & Communications Committee since June 2016, she also enjoys pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serving as board chairwoman of Pages & Chapters, a Kansas City- and Washington, D.C.-based family literacy nonprofit organization. Adrianne is married to John Leacox, a dedicated software engineer, and she believes in equal educational rights for everyone and hopes that sharing the stories within KCWiT will inspire others to also pursue their dreams.

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